Ombudsman Service launches with Code for housing developers

Barratt, Taylor Wimpey, Redrow and Bellway are among 100 firms signed up to a new Code of Practice, following the launch of a new Ombudsman Service. The Code has been developed in response to growing pressure surrounding complaints from owners of new build housing that issues fail to be resolved effectively.

Housing estate being built

The Code sets out the following expectations:

  • Protects customers, prohibits high pressure selling; requires any deposits the customer pays to their builder to be protected.
  • Requires the developers to provide all relevant information about the home during the sales process – including its tenure and any future management or service charges – allowing them to make an informed decision about their purchase.
  • Sets out requirements for a fair reservation agreement, including a ‘cooling off’ period; and sales contract requirements.
  • Allows customers to engage a professional to carry out a pre-completion inspection of their home on their behalf.
  • Specifies that a home must be ‘complete’, preventing developers from paying customers to move into a new home early.
  • Replaces the large number of previous codes, hence simplifying and boosting consumer confidence

Housing minister Lee Rowley visited Bellway site in Solihull to mark the start of the new scheme.

New Homes Ombudsman Service

The remit of the New Homes Ombudsman Service (NHOS) is to help customers resolve issues with their new homes where developers have failed in respect of the Code, covering the entire transaction starting with reservation, moving through legal completion to after-sales management up to two years following the purchase including issues or defects that have arisen at or after occupation and which are not major defects.

NHOS exists to provide a free and independent service to buyers to impartially assess and adjudicate on issues which the Registered Developer has been unable or unwilling to resolve. The cost of the service will be funded by the New Homes Quality Board via a levy charged to those Registered Developers who have registered with the New Homes Quality Board and have adopted the New Homes Quality Code.

The service is led by the New Homes Ombudsman, Alison MacDougall who has previously worked for The Dispute Service with responsibility for dispute resolution of tenancy deposits. She has also held roles with the Office of the Independent Adjudicator dealing with student complaints and the Police Complaints Authority.

The New Homes Ombudsman Service is a subsidiary of the Dispute Service Ltd, a not for profit company specialising in dispute resolution work on tenancy deposits in the private rented sector and tenant-landlord mediation and conciliation for issues arising during a tenancy.

The NHOS Board is led by Chair Jodi Berg OBE, Independent Complaints Reviewer and Chair of National Residential Landlords Association.